As I read Lashinda’s latest post, How Sports Can Prevent More Ferguson’s, I found myself nodding in agreement, thinking of all the times sports has connected me with people of different cultures, upbringing and skin color. It is already doing the same for my daughter, who is only five years old. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of sports, and those who know me are familiar with my advocacy for girls’ participation in sports as a vehicle toward self-confidence, leadership skills, a healthy self-image, resiliency and success in life.
60% of boys and 47% of girls are playing a team sport by age 6. At my daughter’s age, many of the sports she participates in are still co-ed. She goes to gymnastics with boys and girls, plays soccer with boys and girls, practices muay thai with boys and girls, and goes to swimming lessons with boys and girls. Pretty soon, though, they will start separating the girls from the boys in many sports.
While I understand why we separate the genders, and am not necessarily against that, I wonder if that’s where some of the problems begin. Is that when they start to really understand what our culture defines as “real women” and “real men?” Is that when their paths diverge until they meet again with completely different expectations of each other? Is that when the respect is lost?
Because while sports may be good for kids in terms of teaching them to be tolerant of others, regardless of their differences, and while they may be good for race relations across the board, I’m not so sure they are good for gender relations as they stand now.
I don’t need to lay out details of all of the domestic violence that has been in the news lately, from Ray Rice, Jonathan Dwyer and Greg Hardy (and dozens of others!) in the NFL to Floyd Mayweather in boxing. Not to mention the horrific reports about MMA fighters Josh Grispi, “War Machine,” and Thiago Silva. Hey, even Hope Solo is doing it.
You’ve all heard about it by now.
So how can sports – something that has so many positive benefits in my mind – enable such heinous behavior? How can it pay more money to be like Floyd Mayweather than anyone else in the industry? Why is it paying to be a monster?
To be fair, many athletes that are well paid are great people. The world doesn’t work in black and white; there is a lot of gray. And some people are going to be who they are regardless of their surroundings and influences (which can be good and bad). But then there are the people who can be swayed and affected. The ones who follow the herd. And I wonder if the current culture of sports is leading the herd to hell.
Are you not entertained?
We want to see BLOOD, we want to see people HIT HARD, we want to see RECORDS BROKEN. We want to see barbaric WARRIORS. We want SEX. We want MONEY. We want DRAMA. We want SHOCK.
That’s what we PAY for. That’s what we ASK for. That’s what we make TIME for.
So that’s what we GET.
Who is to blame for this culture of instant gratification, cheap thrills, pandering to the lowest common denominator of the mob?
Is it the NFL and Roger Goodell for not benching players accused of domestic violence? Is it Florida State University and the Tallahassee Police Department for covering up the rape allegations against star player Jameis Winston? Is it the women who are the victims of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault, for asking for it in some way? Does blame fall squarely on the shoulders of the aggressors, the athletes? Is it the media for not digging deeper when a star athlete is accused of something serious? Is it the sponsors for continuing to poor money into institutions that enable this sort of behavior and culture?
The reality is, WE all have a part in this.
We used to want to hear stories about good people whose families were sacred to them. We wanted to hear stories about athletes who overcame incredible odds to succeed. We didn’t want to hear about Michael Jordan in the club or buying houses and cars; we didn’t want to see his wife on a reality show arguing with other women. We wanted to see how hard he worked. We wanted to hear him speak. We wanted to see him perform even when he was ill.
We got so tired of that though. We got so sick of hearing about these people and how great they were. We wanted some juice. There is no way all of these people are perfect, and we need to feel better about our average selves, so give us some dirt! Show us their flaws so we can mock them. Give us something to talk about.
The internet made it easy for us to get what we want. ABC might not want to show a blurry video taken by a cell phone showing a celebrity doing and saying some R-rated things, but TMZ will. YouTube will allow it. Twitter and Facebook and Vine and Instagram can share it. So we all get what we want now. We get the “nudes” and the sex tapes. We get the knockout video. We get the post-rape video of the assailant bragging about his conquest. We get the video of the superstar walking around in a drunken stupor. We get the dirty text messages and threatening voicemails. We get the person losing it on Twitter and Facebook; we take screenshots in case they have a second thought. We get everything we want.
We also got desensitized. When you see some of the Worst, day after day, the Best starts looking like fantasy, and everyone’s standards get lower. After Tiger Woods got busted by his harem, does anyone really flinch anymore when we find out a celebrity was unfaithful to his or her spouse? “Who cares, as long as it doesn’t affect their game.” – because apparently that’s what we are really interested in? Come on. “The game” clearly isn’t enough to feed our insatiable appetite for drama.
These days, athletes have to be popular to get money. Not just good at what they do. Popularity, mind you, is no longer about people LIKING an athlete. What I mean by “popular” is they have to get people’s ATTENTION. They have to have a lot of FOLLOWERS. They have to stay in the MEDIA. They need to be a trainwreck we all strain our necks to see. It’s called “business.”
Men, you’d better make some highlight-worthy hits in the game or in the ring or in the cage. I mean, hits that have the potential to go VIRAL. We want to see people collide like trucks at full speed! But don’t get caught using drugs or we’ll label you a complete fraud who is unworthy of this life.
Also, guys, make sure to have only THE hottest and fakest looking women on your arm. They need to look like all they do is have sex with you all day. Make sure they’re wearing all designer everything and sit pretty looking perfect for you on the sidelines and anytime the paparazzi is around. Unless you’re married, and then try to keep those women at bay, although we all know what’s up, wink wink. Hey, you’re just a man, how are you supposed to resist all of this temptation? If you keep paying for everything your wife and kids need, no one can tell you anything. Do you! But don’t get any of the side chicks pregnant, because that means you’re a deadbeat dad.
Also, guys, don’t talk about other men as if you respect and admire them. Talk some good trash, that’s what the people want to hear! They’ll replay it on Sportscenter, and the GIF will be on Buzzfeed, and it will get shared all over social media, and everyone will write their analysis about it. That’s how you stay in the news cycle! No one wants to see you crying about how much you admire some veteran you looked up to in college. Be a real man.
Also, say something crazy to the camera every once in awhile so we can talk about your anger issues. And do a “reality” show where we can see things get “real.” We need to see at least one fight every episode, whether it’s you and your wife, or her and her friends, or your wife and your mistress. But don’t hit your wife, you monster, that’s too much for us!
Make sure you’re involved in a charity, or at least donating to one, but don’t talk about it too much, because people hate it when you rub that stuff in their face. Be relatable. Also, that stuff is boring because we don’t have anything negative to say about it.
Oh yeah, and female athletes! If you want any kind of attention at all, you’d better look good and make it really obvious that you’re hot by taking off your clothes for photo shoots and stuff. We need to be reassured you’re a woman before being able to accept you as any kind of athlete. But don’t be too slutty or else we will call you a whore who has no talent and cease taking anything you say or do seriously.
Bottom line is, we want you to FAIL as people to make us feel better about ourselves. So please do something that makes us feel not so bad in comparison, and we’ll be good. We’ll eventually forget what you did anyway and let you back in the glorious limelight you’re all desperately clamoring for. Cool?
Every day, as I sit in the car line of parents waiting to pick up their kids from school, I see this little boy, about 8 years old, walking his sister, who is probably 5 or 6, home from school. I can’t help but stare at them every day. The little boy is entirely focused on his sister; he holds her hand and doesn’t let go. One day she dropped his hand to pull her hoodie up over her head. He stopped and put his hand on her back until she was done, and then grabbed her hand again. When she drops her lunch box, he picks it up. He makes sure she crosses the street safely.
The little girl is sweet and feisty. She skips a lot and smiles a lot. She is usually the one talking loudly and telling stories; he is listening quietly with a smile.
She feels safe with him. She can be herself with him. Her big brother loves her, and she loves him. And they know, without a doubt, that they have each other’s back.
I wonder when these kids change? Will this boy be that kind of a husband to someone one day? Or will the world somehow convince him to lose respect for women? How about the little girl? Will she find a partner who treats her the way her brother does now? Or will she too be convinced by the world that it isn’t possible, or that something else is better? Will she look for someone rich instead of someone kind? Will he look for someone who meets all the “standards” of beauty and sex, forgetting what it’s like spending time with someone uniquely themselves?
Will they follow the herd to hell?
It reminds me of Lupe Fiasco’s Hurt Me Soul lyrics:
I used to hate hip-hop, yup, because the women degraded
But Too Short made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite, I stated, though I only recited half
Omitting the word “bitch”, cursing – I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, till a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learned it from a song I heard and sort of liked